James Cridland

Multiplatform radio lessons from Germany

I was in the sunny German city of Nuremberg last week, as the guest of the lokalrundfunktage. The state media regulator for Bavaria helps run a big, impressive conference with a surprising amount of people there.

The most impressive thing to me was that I was speaking at 1.30pm, and everyone turned up at 1.25pm. As you might know from conferences, the concept of people being early is… well, it just doesn’t happen. Except in Germany, it appears.

Earlier in the day, research company Kantar TNS revealed some data for Bavarian radio listening, and it’s interesting to take a peek at it, since it reveals some interesting trends.

It says that 15% of people use DAB in Bavaria in a typical week — that’s up by over a quarter year on year, and for the first time, DAB is more popular than internet listening, at least in terms of total reach.

That’s quite a change for Germany. DAB had a bit of a poor launch in the country, where they originally used a different set of frequencies, L Band, to the rest of the DAB countries at the time. Some receivers coped with L Band — most didn’t. And because L Band was a higher frequency that was worse at penetrating buildings and, you know, trees, and things — it resulted in pretty awful coverage. So, as a result, DAB didn’t really catch on. They’ve fixed all that now, and you can see the results.

DAB is up… radio through internet, cable and satellite is relatively static… but FM use has decreased: down by almost 5% year-on-year. It seems to me that if DAB didn’t exist, the Bavarian radio industry would be in a rather bad place.

The figures also show the average age per radio platform — an interesting set of figures I’ve not seen reported before. The average age of FM is 49. DAB is almost identical, at 48. Internet radio is a whole ten years younger — which, as you might guess, means that listening over satellite or cable is rather older. As ever, this points to being on the right platform for your audience. Satellite or cable attracts the older folk; internet attracts younger ones. Common sense, you might think — but with limited budgets, worth considering.

What’s certainly clear from these figures is that radio is continuing on its trajectory to be multi-platform. Less than half of the UK’s listening is to FM/AM radio; Germany’s not there yet — not that these figures are entirely comparable — but certainly well on the way.

As if to underline the multiplatform nature of these figures, I was interviewed after my keynote speech on a local student radio station, then on camera for Facebook, and then for a podcast.

While the Germans may have been astonishingly punctual for my keynote, my train back to Munich was delayed by 40 minutes. Well. Nobody’s perfect.